New Delhi: Citing inaction and unnecessary delay, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Tamil Nadu Advocate General to tell it, by February 14, when will the Assembly Speaker decide on disqualification petitions filed in March 2017 against Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and 10 other MLAs for defying the whip and voting against the E.K. Palaniswami government in the February trust vote.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant queried the state's top law officer to tell when the Assembly Speaker will take a call on the matter.
"Tell us what you propose to do," the bench asked Advocate General Vijay Narayan, representing the Assembly Secretary.
The bench added that the Speaker should have decided the matter.
"Notice should have been issued. There is no reason for not to decide it. It is inaction. Delay is unnecessary...." said the Chief Justice citing the three-year delay on the process on the disqualification pleas.
"There is a judgment by this court now, which says the Speaker should decide within three months... But apart from this judgment, the Speaker cannot hold on to disqualification proceedings as long as three years," he added.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Paneerselvam and others, submitted before the bench that the plea made in the writ petition filed by DMK MLA and whip in Assembly, R. Sakkrapani and others in the Madras High Court to declare the 11 AIADMK MLAs as disqualified was given up, and as a result, the matter should have been closed.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the DMK leader, contended it has already been three years and the Speaker is yet to decide the matter. "The term of the Assembly will end in May 2021... as on date, no notice have been issued," he contended.
Sibal, to back his arguments, cited the apex court's January 21 verdict on a petition by Congress MLA Keisham Meghachandra Singh from Manipur Assembly. He said the verdict rules that the Speaker must decide the disqualification petitions within three months.
Rohatgi contested this argument stating whether a mandamus can be issued to the Speaker has been referred to the Constitution Bench. Contending the January 21 judgement proceeded on the basis of the reference was wrong, he said: "It is not open for a three-judge to quash the reference."
To this, the Chief Justice replied: "This judgement holds the field... This judgement is there, it is the law... for three years the Speaker cannot sit on a notice."
He reckoned the delay, on deciding the disqualification petition, as inaction. "There is a judgement of this court, which is not set aside and it does not matter if somebody likes it or not. At the moment you (Advocate General of Tamil Nadu) must take action, when are you going to take action, tell us now," said the Chief Justice.
The court also observed "If there is inaction, there should be a cure. Let the Advocate General tell (the top court), if the judgement is not binding or not a good law."
The bench asked the Advocate General to furnish a reply on the matter on February 14.
The plea seeks disqualification of Panneerselvam and 10 others for voting against the Palaniswami government when they were in the rebel camp, and by voting against the trust motion, they violated the whip and as a result they face disqualification proceedings under the anti-defection law.